Whirlywind

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WHEW!

I made it. Life since December has been non-stop, mostly related to preparing my condo for selling, as well as wedding plans. Thankfully, Lisa relished the whole wedding planning process, so my job for the wedding was mostly to nod in agreement. I do that well. There were tasks I had to do, but mostly I just had to show up. The caterer was my big task, which I accomplished. Let’s face it, food really isn’t a challenge. Our guest list was small, intentionally, only 53 people, so ordering food was easy.

The condo prep was a lot of work, constant. After weeks of painting, replacing a floor, rehanging doors and doing some general cleaning, I was ready to hang it up. When the last baseboard was replaced, I vowed not to touch another hammer or paint brush for the rest of my life. Ha! Like that is going to happen. The kitchen floor, in particular, looked very nice. Lisa saw that and immediately the wheels started turning in her head with ideas for projects to do around our house (condo). At the beginning of February, my condo was ready to sell. The listing went active at 4 PM on a Sunday. Within minutes there were multiple requests for showings the next day. I worked from Lisa’s condo (next door.. short commute) Monday morning, to accommodate the showings, and was rewarded with two offers that morning. Another followed early that afternoon. Two were nearly $8000 higher than the asking price, and one of those offers was an as is offer. It was nice to be in a seller’s market!

I’m not sure how many showings there were the first day. Let’s just say there were a lot of showings, so many that I had to start turning down requests, allowed one more showing Tuesday morning before I accepted one of the offers. My realtor vetted the credit of each of the buyers, said all three had solid loans. After some discussion, I decided to accept the offer from a young man who is an elementary school band director. My daughter teaches band, so I figured he would be an admirable choice. A guy who teaches kids instrumental music all day likely needs a quiet place to live.

My place sold and appraised at a price $17000 higher than any other condo like it in our condo association prior. In a few short years, the value of my home increased nearly $60000. That may not sound like that much in today’s real estate market, but my condo was a small 1000 sq ft, two bedroom one bath unit with an attached garage. The equity was enough to make me feel stress free financially for the first time in what seems like an eternity.

I closed on the condo a little over two weeks ago. The four week period between the sale and the closing went quickly. Thanks to FB Marketplace, nearly all my furniture was gone quickly. Since I was moving into Lisa’s condo, all but a few items had to be sold or given away. It’s pretty amazing what people will buy if it is cheap. The worst items seemed to garner the most interest — a forty year old wobbly dresser and nightstand ($5 for the pair) sold in 10 minutes, with countless inquiries. I sold the dressers and nightstand in the master bedroom to a woman who fixes up old furniture and resells. She even helped me move it from my second floor unit to her van, came back to pick up the rest. When she saw some of the other stuff I had, she offered to buy some more items. I hated to part with one of those items, an outdoor bench that I had out on my balcony, weathered nicely, a home made project my dad made from an old headboard and footboard. I was touched by the immigrant couple who showed up in an old Toyota Corolla to buy the tattered full mattress and box spring I had. They drove an hour to pick it up, but it was obvious they were grateful for it. Neither spoke much english, but when I asked them if the bed was for their children they said no, it was for them to sleep on. They struggled to load the frame, comforter, sheets inside the car, then bravely strapped the mattress and box spring to the top of their little car. Somehow they managed. I felt a little guilty for taking $10 from them, tried to decline the cash, but they insisted I take it.

I moved some things into Lisa’s condo, but that was difficult, as her son still had things there. I planned to move the remainder of my things in a week before the closing, but when I went to her place to move, I found out that her son’s girlfriend had kicked him out the day before, so he had moved back in to Lisa’s. After the smoke cleared, and I had managed to hold my temper, we talked it out. She asked him to move his stuff out, which he did immediately. There will still things left, and he was still living with her, but I was able to move most of my stuff over. By the day before the closing, I had moved my stuff to OUR place.

For two weeks, I needed a place to live. I try to honor God and understand why it’s important to wait to live together until marriage. A couple we know from church, who also were studying with us to help prepare for marriage, offered to let me live in their garage loft until the wedding. The loft is his office, so it was a sacrifice for him to let me live there and work from there for two weeks. I am very grateful. Not only was it kind of them, but I really enjoyed getting to know Jim and Cindy better during the time I stayed with them. The loft doesn’t have a bathroom, so I saw them quite a bit, as they left their back door open for me so I could use their basement bathroom. I used that most of the time, but during the night there was no way I was going to stumble through the dark and into their house to use the bathroom. I got used to peeing in a cup!

The wedding was this past Saturday. I will save the details for another blog. We both remarked that night, after we were recuperating from the day, that the day was even better than anticipated. Lisa really plans well and it showed! Such a wonderful day. I am married now. As you can tell from the picture, she is gorgeous, and my jaw dropped when I say her appear in her short wedding dress. I don’t like most of the pictures of myself, as the winter was not kind to my physique! I will lose quite a bit of weight as the cycling season starts, thank goodness.

Life is good, better than I imagined it would be five years ago. A lot has changed. I am glad to be able to trust in God, because he has truly blessed me.

Fresh

They look good, much better than I expected. Ever since I bought my condo some four years ago, my little galley kitchen has been the room I have most wanted to update. The cabinets were solid, but very dated, dark wood laminate circa the late 1970’s. They are the original cabinets, as is the worn vinyl sheet flooring, dark stained baseboard and pantry door. The only updates to the kitchen since my home was built are the stainless steel faced appliances, possibly the countertops. I have fretted over starting the project of updating for quite a while, with full knowledge that an update will be a larger job than it looks to be, especially for an amateur such as yours truly. So, since I plan on putting my condo up for sale next month, I decided to use the extra time during this past holiday to begin the task of spiffing up my kitchen. The first project was painting the cabinets — which I finished last night after a week and a half of toil.

I didn’t get a before picture. Trust me, the cabinets look quite a bit different.

Tomorrow, I am going to pick up the flooring, likely a dark gray vinyl plank. I used vinyl plank last year when I updated the utility room. Vinyl plank was easy to install and it looks good, plus it is economical and cleans up nicely. For a second floor condo, vinyl is better than wood laminate flooring as it is also a little more quiet. I probably will install the flooring last, so I don’t have to worry about making a mess when I paint the walls. The walls will probably be a bright white, with the hope that it will make the gray cabinets and dark floor stand out a little more. I may add dark gray paint on the portion of the walls above each set of cabinets. When I am finished with the project, I will change the curtains to contrast the grays in the room. The kitchen table and the microwave will be removed.

There really isn’t much else that needs to be done to my place, besides painting trim, baseboards and doors. One wall in the living room will need a fresh coat of paint (Sherwin Williams french gray, very nice looking), since I had to do some patching to correct a surface raceway experiment gone bad. There is also a TV mounted on that wall, so that will need to be removed and the holes patched.

Towards the end of next month, Lord willing, I will be putting my place on the market. The condos here sell very quickly and have been selling at a price that should be about $50,000 more than what I paid four years ago, about $60-70,000 in equity. That money should help pay off debt, give me a fresh start financially, a sorely needed shot in the arm after the devastation the divorce has had on my money situation. My fiance lives in the building next door, in a condo a smidgeon larger than mine, and we will be sharing living expenses — something I have never experienced. 2022 holds a lot of hope for me, a ton of positive!

By the way, I am very happy with the paint I used on the cabinets. Paint was a concern for me, as I have heard and read horror stories about how paint lasts on laminate. The paint I used has passed the scratch test, went on very well. It was true to it’s name — Pittsburg Fast Dry. Even when I was painting the cabinet faces in my garage, in fairly cold temperatures, it dried quickly. Inside, the paint was dry within 15-30 minutes after application. The paint also leveled very well and the finish is very even. The price didn’t knock me out, either. A gallon of semi gloss cost $45 on sale. Surprisingly, the cabinets needed a full gallon, mostly because I had to sand the edges down and repaint the faces due to a mistake I made. The mistake was a head slapper. I laid the faces down on a canvas tarp when I painted the ends, not thinking about the paint sticking to the tarp underneath when it dried. Oops.

The next month should be fun. I am determined to stay motivated, get the job done!

Return

My boy plowed through the front door of my condo this morning, fairly early by most standards. He finished up school yesterday, took his last final, and drove up from Champaign. I was on the phone with a customer as he tromped past, tossed his backpack on the living room floor while laying his guitar case in front of the fireplace, proceeded to flop on my old leather couch. He loves that couch and rightfully so. It’s soft and fluffy, perfect for naps. I finished my call, said hello, welcomed him home. Nate grunted a hello, said he had a good trip, then drifted off into a nap, his light snoring almost a distraction while I worked. Shortly thereafter, he shuffled into the bathroom for a quick shower and into his bedroom for more sleep. I didn’t see him again until around 5 this evening.

I guess school wore him out. Although I think I remember a little what it was like to be 22. I slept quite a bit then.

This is probably my last time living with my son. He is officially done with school, interviewing for jobs, trying to decide where he is going to live. Soon, I won’t have a place for him to stay, since I am selling my condo this February-March. When Lisa and I marry at the end of March, I am moving into her condo, a short move since she lives in the building next door. I spent the last two Saturdays cleaning out her garage, hoping to clear enough space for the few things I am going to bring with me. Most importantly, there needs to be enough room in her garage for my bikes.

Life’s chapter is turning yet another page. Four years ago, the chapter that began was a dramatic one, a dramatic change. Today’s chapter has both children on their own — one a newlywed teaching music at a school overseas, the other beginning his own story. And I am starting a new story, hopeful and eager to see what is in store.

Sometimes I worry what my children think about their father, now that the dust has settled from the divorce. It’s not easy for them to see me moving on, I am sure. Neither is expressing any anger, both seem to accept it. Tonight, Nate asked me where the wedding ceremony is going to be, was interested as I told him about the little old white church out in the country we are using for the ceremony. I want to ask him to stand up with me for the ceremony, but am a little afraid that will be too much for him. If I am going to ask him, it probably should be this week, since he leaves this Sunday to visit his sister and will be gone for the holidays.

So, my quiet little nest is invaded for the next few days.

Patience Required

What a strange yet exciting time I am in right now!

Marriage for the second time in March. I am excited. She is wonderful and just what I need. There are so many ways we are a perfect fit. My life is going to change in many positive ways, including financially, as some of my debt goes away when I sell my condo, and I no longer have a mortgage payment! Divorced life sucks when you are the one who has to pay the ex. In a way, I get to start over in more ways than one.

With the new relationship comes challenges, as I wrote about recently. The church we attend doesn’t like that I am divorced, especially since my divorce wasn’t due to adultery. In their eyes, I didn’t have a scriptural reason for divorce, even after a face to face meeting I had with a church staff counselor and a church elder. It’s disappointing to me, but not surprising. After the meeting I had with the counselor and elder, I received an email from the counselor saying that he recommended reconciliation with my ex. Anything else would be considered adultery. His reaction was no surprise to me. It’s disappointing, but I will have to deal with it. Thankfully, no disciplinary action is being taken.

I am a member of the church now. Membership is called being a ‘mission partner’. I am being asked how I want to serve, something I like. I met last Sunday with the guy who is in charge of music, who responded to my interest in playing my trumpet for church worship or other needs. At my previous church, I played in the swing orchestra and also in the worship band. We shall see how that pans out. I am still a decent horn player. Last night, I was a server for the annual women’s Christmas dinner, a big event with several hundred women. Lisa hosted a table, which she decorated magnificently. I was a waiter. Lisa loved that, especially since I added a little touch by wearing a fake moustache. It was funny. I was only able to persuade one other guy to wear a fake moustache and it was a hit. We had fun with it. The evening was a little strange, however, as many of the men who served were also church elders. I get the idea that they are a little uncomfortable with me, largely because they know of my divorce background. It’s going to take a while with them. I am trying to be patient.

Squeezing

I had just walked through the door of my home, tired. It had been a long evening, one of many this week. It’s December, after all, one of the busiest months of the year. My phone was ringing.

“Hey Dad, I accidentally order Chipotle to be delivered to your house. I cancelled it but they delivered it anyway. Check your front door.”

Sure enough, Chipotle, at my front door. I opened the bag and immediately wondered what my son is living on. When he is home with me during the summer, I try to emphasize how important it is to conserve money by planning meals, grocery shopping, not eating out all of the time. I am pretty sure he ignores that, judging by the steak bowl with guac and queso that he ordered for himself. It’s difficult to keep myself from comparing. When I was in college, it was a treat to be able to eat dinner at the local pizza buffet once a month with my friends. The rest of the time was the boring food served in the school cafeteria. I just plain did not have the money to spend.

He does. I suppose that says a lot about the savvy my son has. These days, he rarely asks for money. He did ask for money recently. When I said no, mainly because I simply don’t have money to give to him, he shrugged it off, said he would CASH IN ONE OF HIS INVESTMENTS. Say what?

My son followed up his phone calls with a text. An announcement. “Hey Dad, I am dating. Can you tell grandpa to keep from commenting on my FB?”. Sure enough, he had just posted a few pictures on his FB page of a recent date. The fact that Nate even mentioned it to me is a rare accomplishment. My boy doesn’t usually say anything to me. He is as private as private can be. After a few texts, I even managed to get the first name of his date. Her name is Jess, a tall girl who fits well next to my 6’4″ son. A friend who works for a florist had donated a dozen roses to him and another friend for dates they had set up for them. The pictures looked a bit odd to me. Who gives a dozen roses to their date on a first date? It seems to have worked. She looks happy next to my blushing son.

I am glad he communicated with me. My dad did notice the pictures that Nate posted on FB, sent me a text to ask about them and commented on how slim my son was looking. I replied back, let Dad know that Nate was hoping no one from our generation would comment on his post. Dad behaved, only liked the picture.

Scotty Beam Me To Work

6 AM, the hues of the morning sun beginning to peek over the horizon as I drove my little Subaru east along the on ramp to I-88. Until I reach I-88, the little stretch through town is quiet and peaceful, with very little traffic besides myself. It is only until the merge onto the tollway that the madness begins.

“Here we go again!” I sigh as I settle in behind a slow moving bakery delivery truck, hemmed in by an anxious commuter in a large SUV who is travelling at the same rate of speed as the truck I am following, a train of dazed drivers in the vehicles, all hopelessly looking for an opportunity to move into the passing lane. The gaps in traffic are rare even at 6 AM, the passing lane a risky gamble, the aggressiveness of drivers in the passing lane creating havoc as they whiz along at 90 mph. I live out in the far western suburbs of Chicago, so in a few miles most of the cars heading into the city will be slowed to a snail’s pace. It’s difficult to summon any amount of sympathy for the ruthless hellions in the passing lane, though. No one should be in that much of a hurry. They are going to work, after all. Why hurry to work?

In a few short miles, I head south on the 355 tollway, where the traffic is just as dense, but there is usually a respite after I-55. Going south is heading away from the city, so I don’t have as much company. I-55 is another east-west vein, so much of the traffic exits from 355 onto the ominous Lego like ramps that snake off and to the tollway. When I first started driving the tollway, those ramps scared the living daylights out of me. Now they are mundane.

What almost never fails to happen is getting stuck in the passing lane behind someone driving ten miles under the speed limit. I curse out loud when that happens, immediately conscious of my sin due to the Christian music I tend to favor during my commute. The music is my attempt to keep my focus calm and in the right place. Commuting the tollway is a daunting challenge even to someone who tries to keep a Christlike attitude. I fail enough as it is, and I am constantly thankful for God’s grace and forgiveness as I curse my fellow man or woman when behind the wheel of my Subaru.

My commute is 37 miles one way. I am thankful for the pandemic for one reason only — I am only required to make the trip to the office one day a week. There is a rumor that will change soon. Hopefully, it’s only a rumor, but even when my company lifts the one day a week in the office rule, I still will only have to come to the office 50 percent of the time. Commuting the tollways can be expensive, as it is $6 in tolls a day on top of gas and car maintenance. The month of November has cost more, as I experienced one of the hazards of tollway use — my IPass transponder pooped out, something I didn’t know until I noticed my toll account balance was extremely low. Tolls suddenly were being charged at twice the normal rate. Yikes. Until I get a chance to mail my transponder back to the tollway authority for an exchange, either I pay the double rate or I don’t use the tollway. Not using the tollway means about another 90 minutes of total commute time. Yuck!

Four years to retirement.

I am divorced — What would Jesus say to me if I asked him about it?

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This week marks four years since my divorce was finalized. Some guys when they divorce look at that day as freedom day, a reason to celebrate, a release from whatever was holding them down. I don’t look at it that way. My life definitely changed that day, a change that started years before the divorce actually happened. The day of divorce was not a day of freedom — because it’s going to be a part of me for the rest of my life.

She used to say that I really never should have been married, an excuse, an attempt to place the failing marriage on my shoulders, a statement she began to repeat early in our marriage and continued to repeat it to the very end. As I remember those words, I wonder if she had given up even before it began. We held on 25 years, two people who had made a commitment to each other before God, the God part the biggest reason (besides our children) we held on so long.

Divorce is tough for anyone. I am a Christian, a Christ follower, serious about my relationship with God, and I want to honor God. I believe the Bible is one way God communicates with me and I want to listen to him. I believe the Bible is true, every word. In the years leading up to my divorce, I looked up every scripture verse I could find that talks about divorce. There really aren’t that many. As I read them, over and over, I prayed over them, asked God to help me understand. Divorce is tough for anyone, but as a Christian, the decision to divorce is agonizing, no matter the reason for the divorce. After all, God hates divorce, part of a verse from Malachi 2:16 that many well meaning people have quoted to me. I understood that then and really understand it now. No one needs to tell me that God hates divorce. It wasn’t an epiphany, as divorce would be contrary to what God intended for man when woman was created. Separation is contrary to the way God created us.

It took me a while to understand that God hates divorce, but he would not hate me if divorce happened to me.

OK. God is not going to hate me for wanting a divorce. However, there is the matter of sin. If a divorce isn’t due to marital unfaithfulness, then remarriage is adultery.

Matthew 19:9 (NIV) – “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Jesus had been asked about divorce as a test, an attempt by Pharisees (teachers of Jewish law) to trap him, to discredit him. There were two schools of thought regarding the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which says “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house….”. One school of thought held that ‘something indecent’ meant marital unfaithfulness, the only allowable cause for divorce. The other school of thought emphasized the words ‘who becomes displeasing to him’. That would allow a man to divorce his wife if she did anything he disliked, even if she burned his food while cooking it. Jesus first pointed to God with his response, as the creator who made them male and female, in a way that unites them as one flesh. When the Pharisees responded by asking Jesus why Moses commanded that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away, Jesus replied as he did in verse 9, first saying that Moses permitted divorce because their hearts were hard.

I don’t know how many times I read that passage, each time asking God to help me understand it. Was I looking for a loophole? Justification? Honestly, I wanted peace that if I did make the decision to ask my wife for divorce, I would not be sinning and worse, be committing another sin if some time later I remarried. The last 8-10 years of my marriage was a time of wrestling with that realization, especially as things became worse, as it became painfully clear that our relationship was not going to get better. The last 12 years (or more) of our marriage, at my estimation, was devoid of any physical affection. I knew that was a sign of something unforgiven that made her not to be with me, even before a counselor volunteered that information, a forgiveness she refused to give, with insistence that forgiveness was something I had never asked for. I had. I did even as I didn’t know what I had done. As the struggle with the thought to divorce grew to the point of being unbearable, I asked her to talk about it. I was tired of her refusal to honor me, asked why. The only thing she told me was that she couldn’t honor a man she thought was wrong. Wrong? What did that mean? She couldn’t explain it. Desperate, I went to her father, asked him to tell me what his relationship was like with his wife. Maybe that would tell me something. He graciously met with me, was very transparent and open with me, and I discovered a few things I didn’t know during that conversation. I left him that evening with the news that things between his daughter and I were not good, that my intention was not to divorce, but was not confident that we would survive. He prayed with me… and when the divorce did happen, I am the only one of the three ex son-in-laws that he did not condemn. I did not hear from him at all after the divorce.

I sought out my church pastor, hoping for an understanding ear. He refused to talk to me. I went to a counselor, who listened. I found friends who also gave me a kind ear. No loopholes. No justification. No one blamed me if I did make the decision. Some didn’t think the decision would be a sin, even if I remarried.

When I made the decision to ask for divorce, despite my attempts to understand what the Bible says about divorce and to reconcile Jesus’ words in Matthew 19, I was afraid of what the decision was doing to my relationship to God. I felt a darkness, a separation, a wall that kept me from being able to approach God in the way I knew I needed to. I was angry to the point of screaming at God. WHY? WHY DO I FEEL THIS WAY? Only when I was able to trust God, to trust in his grace despite what was happening, was I able to find some peace. I asked her for a divorce, yet stayed for another two years until she finally said she too wanted a divorce. Ironically, she told me a few hours following the Cubs’ World Series win. As a Cardinal fan, that night will hurt forever for more than one reason.

Then there is the question of remarriage. One of my brothers, Mark, is divorced and remarried. His wife is a true blessing to him, something I looked to as my relationship with Lisa (now my fiance) grew. When he was going through his divorce, even though there was suspected unfaithfulness on his wife’s part, he agonized about divorcing. He couldn’t reconcile divorce as a Christian. I have thought about the conversations I had with him, and it affects my thoughts about divorce and remarriage.

There are also the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. In I Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul tells them —

“To the married I give this command (not I but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”

I laugh a little, as just a few verses previous, Paul had warned “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time,…Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of control”. Corinth was a very worldly place, with pagan temples that included prostitutes and many other forms of temptation. There were many opportunities to stray. Times now are no different and a strong commitment to the marriage bed is just as necessary now as it was then.

She must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

This past Tuesday night, two elders came to my home to interview me as part of the process of becoming a member of the church I attend with Lisa. Lisa and I have been dating 2.5 years and I have been attending her church for at least two years. I waited to join the church until I was sure that our relationship was going to be permanent. I welcomed the opportunity, like a church with sound leadership that is dedicated to communicating the core values of the church as well as maintaining them by accountability. My faith and beliefs are solid. I know they align with the church as well. However, before the elders arrived, Lisa texted me and let me know that a church staff member had asked her to warn me that the elders had been requested to ask me about my response to a question on the survey Lisa and I completed last week for our upcoming premarital counseling. It was a question that asked about the circumstances of my divorce.

When the interview with the elders reached the point where they asked about my divorce, the first question they asked was if I had gone to my wife to seek forgiveness and to reconcile with my wife. They said that if the church pastor was asked to perform the wedding between Lisa and I, he would not agree to perform the wedding if I had not made an attempt to reconcile with my ex wife. Even then, since my divorce was not due to adultery, remarriage would be something that would be considered adultery according to scripture. It was an uncomfortable thing for them, something they did not want to say. Oddly, I was perfectly comfortable. I knew that the answer I had given to the survey question was short (there was only space enough for a few sentences). The staff member and the elders didn’t know the full story. I shared the divorce story with the elders, filled in the gaps. I told them that many of the years, in my opinion, were an attempt at reconciliation and forgiveness. My decision was based on trust in God’s grace. Even then, I didn’t leave until months after she asked for a divorce.

I could have asked if they had considered the context of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees (or Malachi’s or Paul’s), but there was no reason for an argument. These guys had approached me with love and concern. They don’t want me to expose myself to sin as much as I also don’t want to expose myself to sin.

But I did ask this question — what if I could look Jesus in the eyes and ask him to talk to me about my divorce? Would he answer the same way he answered the Pharisees? I think he might, but maybe not. He recognized the sin when he looked in their hearts. What would Jesus see when he looked in my heart? I told them that I had felt the peace of God when I prayed over that passage, as if God was telling me it was alright.

After all, God hates divorce. God does not hate me.

Lisa is a blessing to me, encourages me and stands beside me as we worship God together. My ex wife did not do that. God has blessed me with Lisa and our relationship with him will grow together. I am thankful for his faithfulness to me, despite my sin… and even if my decision to remarry is a sin.

Board not Bored

Living in close quarters in multi unit housing can be both a challenging and wonderful thing. Condo living has been my way of life for the last four and a half years, a challenge of sorts my first two years due to a nasty downstairs neighbor with a penchant for aggressive complaints. But even in those years, getting to know the neighbors in my building and community has been wonderful, a uniquely sublime experience with a variety of neighbors. I’m an active sort, mostly extroverted, so I have had no problem getting to know the people who live around me. With my nasty neighbor gone, existence is very quiet and the opportunity to get to know the people who occupy the four units in my side of the eight unit building I live in have been numerous. Next door is Cathy, whose 21 year old daughter lives with her. She is a proud Subaru Crosstrek owner, so we like to share stories of our Subarus, as well as life. Directly below me is the new resident who bought the nasty woman’s unit. Todd is a laid back stoner, recently divorced and retired. His son, an equally laid back stoner, moved in with him recently. They both are a pleasure to talk to, often inviting me downstairs to share a toke (no thanks) or to sing with them while Todd plays the guitar. Then there is Bill, a bachelor, a thoughtful thinker who I sit with out in front of his garage sharing our thoughts of the world. We have spiritual conversations now and then, which I enjoy, especially since Bill isn’t a Christian, yet respects what I believe and isn’t afraid to talk with me about what he believes about God. If my son doesn’t want to stand up with me at my wedding this coming March, I may ask Bill.

Oh, and another thing — my fiance lives in the building next door. This truly is a friendly community.

Emerald Green, the condo association I live in, is a quiet little community of two story condos nestled next to the Dupage river in the west suburban Chicago area, within spitting distance of the east gate to Fermilab, one of the older accelerator labs in the world and where one of the smallest atomic particles was discovered. Scientists at Fermi are splitting atoms in a good way and it’s a cool place to live next to. I know of at least one resident who works there, Karl, a young Britain who is truly brilliant. He’s also a talented, enthusiastic tennis player who plays in the tennis leagues our condo recreation association sponsors here. Our community has a street named after a Fermilab scientist, John Bardeen, and another street named after Enrico Fermi. The river is a source of beauty for our community, especially those fortunate enough to have a view of the river. There also is a pond, fed by the Dupage, as well as a spacious clubhouse with pool and tennis court. The condos and villas here were built in the late seventies, with beautiful mature oaks and maples throughout. Our community is well maintained, managed by a competent property management company and a volunteer board who make sure the community is cared for. This past summer saw many improvements and maintenance projects – wood siding replacements, paint for the buildings and balconies, balcony replacements, courtyard concrete replaced, new LED lighting in front of garages and in the courtyards. Not only is Emerald Green a great place to live, the value of each condo unit has increased significantly, not only because of rising real estate prices but also because the community truly is a well cared for gem.

Emerald Green also has another governing board, the recreation association, responsible for the clubhouse, pool, tennis court and pond. The recreation association oversees resident rentals of the clubhouse, issues pass cards for use of the clubhouse and pool, organizes community events/parties, maintains the pool and grounds around the clubhouse, pays for a pool/clubhouse manager. I am a member of the board, have been secretary the last two years, a little frightening for me in some ways because my name is the manager for the bank accounts the recreation association holds. I also monitor the board’s email address and website, answer resident emails and make sure rental requests get to the person who schedules rentals. I set the agenda for our monthly meetings and preside when the president doesn’t want to (sounds funny, but, well, he doesn’t).

One of the challenges to living in a condo community is the residents who complain. There are people who are going to complain no matter what, just because they can. As soon as the first snowflakes flutters down from the heavens, someone is going to grouse about how long it took to get their drive or sidewalk cleared, or how bad the removal job was. They complain about garbage service, the brightness of the new LED lights, the new balconies, how a tree was pruned or not pruned, mice in their units. I had to answer a complaint about mice this summer — because apparently property management and the condo board weren’t answering to satisfaction. She didn’t seem to understand that the recreation association has nothing to do with maintenance to condo buildings. Many residents don’t like that there is a monthly association fee, don’t understand or care that fee is what pays for snow and garbage removal as well as all the maintenance to the buildings. Some feel entitled, and that entitlement also includes the right to complain, quite often in a rude way. They don’t care that all board members are neighbors who have volunteered their time for free.

There is one resident who became upset when his request to grow a garden, for his own use and not for the community, in the open space behind his building, was rejected by the board. Then he was asked during a yearly inspection to clear his garage so that he could park his car in his garage, an association rule. Instead of going to the board to talk about it, he arranged a mutiny of sorts, recruited many of the community chronic complainers to go to a board meeting. It was a rude, disrespectful attack. Mean in many ways and accomplished nothing except create a very unfair portrayal of the condo board. Nothing positive came from the attack. There was no real reason for it except to give the originator satisfaction, a cowardly way to get back at what the wrongs he thought he had experienced. In reality, he doesn’t understand that living in a condominium means that there are rules and those rules are necessary for the community to function in a healthy way. Can there be exceptions? Yes. But those exceptions are not always granted. At the last condo board election, many board members resigned or didn’t seek reelection. For a volunteer position, it just wasn’t worth the headache.

That same resident is threatening to go after the recreation assocation board now, at our meeting this coming Tuesday. He’s threatening to bring an angry throng with him. Why? He wanted to rent the clubhouse a few months ago, a request that was granted but required the standard contract that is issued to all residents that want to rent the clubhouse. That contract requires a check for the rental, as well as a check for damage deposit. He refused to sign the contract, refused to issue the required checks. The guy had the party at the clubhouse any way, complained that the bathrooms had some used paper towels in the garbage cans, said that he wouldn’t pay when confronted about it. On top of that, several of his party guests decided to go for a dip in the pool after midnight, were abusive when asked to leave. So, the recreation board asked him for the signed contract, requested that he pay for the rental. He refused by simply not responding. As a result, the board sent him a certified letter, requesting immediate payment or else his clubhouse pass would be cancelled (it’s an electronic key) and pool privileges for next summer would be revoked. No response. His pass has been cancelled. An offer for a hearing to discuss had been extended to him, which he didn’t respond to.

Guess who was asked to deal with him?

I sent him an email and asked him to refrain from bringing his matter out in the public meeting. I asked him to instead appear for a private hearing with our board. He refused. It’s clear he wants the drama, not a real resolution. So, this Tuesday, probably in front of a crowd, I have to be the board member who speaks for the board at the meeting. The president? Nope. He doesn’t want to do it. Ironically, everyone on the board seems to think I am the one who will deal with him the most reasonably.

*cough*

Daddy Daughter Dances ROCK

Indeed we did.. and it even included air guitar solos

She plans. She plans very well. They plan very well together. Alyssa accepted Mason’s proposal this past February, and they planned their wedding in just a few short months, from overseas. They both teach at a school in Ankara, Turkey. Alyssa wanted their wedding to be in the Chicago area during their summer break. As it turned out, they barely broke a sweat. If planning a wedding is any test of how well a couple works together, Alyssa and Mason passed with extra credit. Their wedding was a great success.

July 27 was the date. The ceremony was outside, around 5 PM, and it was a very hot day. When I put on my jacket, I was immediately pouring sweat. We all managed. Mason’s dad performed the ceremony, did an amazing job. Alyssa and Mason led a time of worship together at the beginning of the ceremony, with Mason playing the guitar, one song sung in Turkish (cool, indeed). I survived the walk down the aisle with Alyssa, only cried a little bit when I gave the prayer to bless the couple before their vows. I noted before I prayed that I now get why each family sits on the side of the bride or groom — I could see Mason’s face and observed the incredible and genuine love he feels for my daughter as I watched his face. I honestly could not have picked a better man to marry my daughter (and I am very sure God had something to do with their choices). Mason is an extrovert and resembles his father-in-law in that respect, something I secretly hope is one of the reasons my daughter loves him. I also survived the walk back down the aisle, following my ex-wife as she walked with Nate. She looked nice, which oddly made me feel good.

There were pictures, lots of them, and the quality of the pictures is very good. The photographer was a friend of my daughter’s, an excellent choice. She took the picture at the top of this blog. My brother, Mark, provided a nice sound system and keyboard for the ceremony and reception, which worked out great, saved some money. The venue was a place called Danada House, a beautiful old farmhouse with stables and gardens, a wonderful indoor glass walled reception hall. There were swing dance lessons, led by Mason’s family, a turkish circle dance, and lots of other fun. Mason and Alyssa had choreographed a fantastic swing dance for their dance, which was a hit. For the daddy/daughter dance, Alyssa and I had choreographed a routine to several snippets of our favorite Earth, Wind and Fire tunes. It was a blast to perform. She chose EWF songs because we listened to them when I drove her to youth basketball games when she was a girl.

The wedding was the first time I had seen several of my ex inlaws since the divorce. Some did not speak to me. Others spoke to me like nothing had happened. I was a little nervous about it prior to the wedding. I sat with my dad and the families of my two brothers during the reception. They were supportive, fun to be with. Alyssa asked me not to bring my girlfriend, out of respect for her mother, so I honored that. Dad was my date. He was OK fun for an 81 year old guy. At one point during the evening, my ex sat down and talked to him for a few minutes. His comment when she left? She’s still laaaaaaame.

It was a good evening. I enjoyed watching my daughter as she celebrated with her friends and her new family. They love her. It’s obvious, so important to me because they are going to be her support as she lives with her husband in a land far, far away from me.

Prior to the wedding, I did get a chance to get to know my new son-in-law. They arrived together in the middle of June. I took him out for a mountain bike ride one evening (he survived, but did cry uncle after an hour of trying to keep up with me). We spent an evening together after I picked him up at the airport. I approve, wholeheartedly, of my daughter’s choice. The kid has a heart of gold, loves people, is intelligent, and really loves my daughter. He also supports me, important since I have a serious girlfriend, someone my daughter had not really met prior to this summer. They spent time with her too, and I think that having him around helped make that time a success. I needed that, because, well, I was waiting for my daughter to get married before I……

Sunday. Morning.

Rainy. Morning. Sunday. Mother’s day.

Most Sunday mornings find me easing into the day even more so than I am accustomed. The only plan I have for a Sunday morning is to go to church with Lisa. I pick her up at 9:30, an easy trip for me since she lives in the condo building next to mine. If I am late, she is waiting in the drive as I pull out of my garage, shaming me good naturedly as she opens the passenger door of my Subaru. We’re both punctual. When I first started dating Lisa two years ago, it took me a while to get used to a woman who was always on time. Now, if we are getting together and she is meeting me at her place, I know to expect a text exactly one minute before she is to arrive — OMW. I descend the steps from my unit to the courtyard entrance door, wait for her to appear a few seconds later at the window.

Before church time, I usually take some time simply in the quiet of my kitchen or in a corner booth at the local Panera, bible or laptop in front of me. The Panera thing has been my Sunday thing for quite a while, something I have written about here many times, a habit I like to keep. The bible in front of me is a new habit, a discipline I have wanted to create for a good part of my life, and I like how church feels when my morning has already focused on bringing me to God. Worship is so much better that way, my heart already opened, and my Sunday morning bible reading almost always is what I know is going to be the passage the pastor is going to teach from. Revelation has been the teaching for the past few months, a book of the bible that I have always found ominous, foreboding. I have been reading a book my dad sent to me, one specific to Revelation in the Warren Wiersbe series, Be Victorious, along with reading Revelation. That also adds to my understanding, opens my eyes to the encouragement found in Revelation. Instead of finding myself shaking in my boots during the church worship service, I find myself buoyed and thankful… a true worship experience that brings me the renewal that coming closer to God’s presence is meant to do. I can honestly say that church has never been a duty for me. It’s always been essential to my existence, a feeding of sorts, as vital as the air that I breathe.

Having Lisa next to me at church has also helped bring back the joy to my worship experience. I don’t know if I have written about it here, but church had a sad note to it for several years, when my marriage was already failed and I was just hanging on with the hope that not giving up would pay off. I was alone at church those last few years, although my daughter tried to keep me company towards the end. The church I attended was awesome, wonderful, with music and teaching that was over the top good, but it was a lonely place without my wife (and usually my family) either not there or sitting in a different part of the auditorium. That has changed now, especially after I decided about 18 months ago to go to Lisa’s church (a tough decision to leave the church I helped start after 30 years). Now, I have Lisa next to me, often along with her granddaughter and son. I love it when she puts her hand on my hand during prayers and holds my hand during the worship songs. If Lisa and I end up together, it’s going largely be because she shares herself in worship with me.

I’m not in church this morning. It’s mother’s day. I slept past 8 this morning, knowing that the rain would keep me off the bike, knowing that this is not a good day for Lisa. It’s a difficult day for her. Mother’s day two years ago was the last time she saw her youngest son, Greg. He went to church with her that morning, where he fussed over making sure she got the flower that each mother at the service was to receive, then cooked for her when they got home. I shook hands with him that day as he left with a friend after lunch. About a week later, he was found in the weeds off of I-88, just before the Aurora toll, dead from a drug overdose. Mother’s day will never be the same for her, a reminder of the last day she saw her youngest son. This morning, she wanted to be alone, as she wants to be when her heart is heavy for him. I have learned it’s best to give her the time to be alone when she is thinking about her son. She needs to mourn. So this morning we skipped church because of the memory that brings to her, will instead watch it online together later on this week. I am going to take her to the botanical gardens later on this afternoon, when I know she will need me and will need to get away.

It’s Sunday morning. Raining. Mother’s day. I have a lot to be thankful for, glad for the refuge Sunday morning has once again become. I pray for Lisa this morning. Send her little text messages. I also thank God for the memories of my mother on this day, precious because Sundays are wonderful because of her influence. Even though she passed a little while ago, I am happy to be able to think about what she showed me about God, about the joy of life and church and so many things. One of the reasons Sunday morning is special to me is her example, someone who went to church because God was a part of her. She taught me to know God, not just know about God. I will be eternally grateful.